Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cross rib roast

Operation freezer cleanout is in effect. We've got 3 spring chickens on order from the farm down the hill, and a half a pig and a lamb on the way later in the year. And a freezer full of odds and ends: leftover pound cake from the baby's first birthday, saved for the fancy trifle that I'll never get around to making; a few cubes of enchilada sauce, not enough to use for anything much; bread ends; smoothie fruit...

And a cross rib roast, the final piece of meat of a grass-fed, organic beef sampler pack from one of our local heroes. I loved the idea of a selection of roasts and marinating and grilling steaks, but the actual cooking was painful and protracted.

I used to be a vegetarian, until one day the smell of bacon-y goodness lured me back to meat. I'm still picky--and we save up for meat in bulk from farms we've visited. And beef still tastes a little too "beefy" to me most of the time. So I stewed, making amazing winter dishes with onions and red wine and served with thick noodles, until I came to the roasting cuts. What the hell do I do with London broil? Bottom round? Cross rib?

There was some greyness, some toughness, some regrettable stringiness. I started to wonder whether beef was worth it. Whether grass fed was at fault. Until I Googled "cross rib" and found Jim H. and the simplest recipe ever.

I put the roast in a bowl with a generous amount of soy, sesame oil, mustard powder, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, salt, and pepper. We stuck it in the fridge for two days, turning when we remembered. Then into pan for browning and a 200-degree oven. It did take about 2 hours--through bathtime and the grownups' cocktail hour--and we took it out when the meat thermometer read 130 degrees.

I let it rest about 30 minutes while I roasted chunks of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions with rosemary and olive oil, and boiled some red wine and a chunk of butter down in the pan for a sauce. The meat was ruby red inside, rich and soft and minerally. The way beef is supposed to cook up, I imagine.
W., who has happily and enthusiastically eaten countless veggies and pasta for the past 10 years, said it was the best thing we'd ever made. (I vigorously defended lamb loin chops and homemade gnocchi, a pre-child special-occasion thing. But 15 minutes of actually work for "the best"? I'll take it.)

We cooked a 5-pound roast, which sounded like too much. But the baby loved the well-done edge pieces the next day, and W. ate thin slices in sandwiches with mustard and horseradish sauce. I cut the rest into strips and warmed it with sliced onion and red bell peppers that had been slightly blackened in a dry cast iron. A little squeeze of lime and into a warm tortilla with salsa, cilantro, and sour cream--fajitas. Really good. So simple.

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